Government wins confidence vote in Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Ms McEntee was applauded by members of the Government benches (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ms McEntee was applauded by members of the Government benches (Brian Lawless/PA) Ms McEntee was applauded by members of the Government benches (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government has won a vote of confidence in Minister of Justice Helen McEntee after hours of heated debate on both her record and that of the main opposition party Sinn Fein.

The Government won the vote by 83 votes to 63. There was one abstention.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald had accused Ms McEntee of failing “abysmally” in her responsibilities, as the Dail debated the motion of confidence in her post following a stabbing attack and violent riot in Dublin city centre last month.

Dublin city centre incident
Dublin city centre incident Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was the responsibility of the Minister for Justice ‘to ensure that our streets are safe’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

A five-year-old girl was in a critical condition in hospital and two other children were injured after the knife attack near a school on Parnell Square East in Dublin’s inner city on November 23.

A woman aged in her 30s who worked as a carer, and who has been called “heroic” after she tried to protect children during the attack, was also seriously injured.

Gardai said the person of interest in the case was receiving treatment in hospital.

In subsequent disorder involving 500 people, gardai estimate that damage worth tens of millions of euro was done to public infrastructure.

Sinn Fein had originally tabled a motion of no confidence in Ms McEntee following the events.

Ms McDonald told the Dail on Tuesday: “Let me be clear, the only person responsible for the stabbing nightmare is the perpetrator. Those responsible for the riot were the rioters.

“But it is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice to ensure that our streets are safe, to ensure that An Garda Siochana have the resources that they need. And she has failed in these responsibilities abysmally, with very dire consequences.”

Ms McDonald said people had been “robbed of their safety” during Fine Gael’s time in Government and added that Ms McEntee was “incapable” of providing the leadership to make streets and communities safe.

Speaking in response to a Government motion on confidence in Ms McEntee, she added: “The minister’s position is untenable and she must go.”

Ms McEntee accused Sinn Fein of “using an appalling situation to play politics” and seeking to “undermine An Garda Siochana” following the events in Dublin city centre.

Ms McEntee told the Dail prior to the vote: “It is a great honour to be Minister for Justice, Ceann Comhairle. I see it as my duty to build stronger, safer communities.”

She said one of her top priorities had been tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence as she also highlighted her work on legislation for body-worn cameras, facial recognition technology and a record budget for gardai.

Ms McEntee said Sinn Fein wanted instability, adding: “Their mantra is to sack, sue and bully.”

“It may surprise (Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou) McDonald to know, this is not an episode of The Apprentice, you can’t fire your way out of the situation.”

After two hours of debate on confidence in her position and the Government’s handling of policing, the minister concluded: “It has been a difficult few weeks, above all for the victims of the recent appalling attack, for their families and their community.

“They remain at the forefront of my mind. So too is the safety of the Irish people.

“All of my actions during my time in office have been taken to make people safer, and make them feel safer. It is for this reason I will continue working to build stronger, safer communities.

“And I will not be deterred by a Sinn Fein party which seeks to sow division and disunity for its own ends.”

She was applauded by members of the Government benches, after ministers earlier expressed confidence in her role.